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Recovery Saboteurs

It might be best to avoid social behavior such as a holiday party that could provoke triggers and cause relapse.When it comes to abstinence from drugs and alcohol, what are some recovery saboteurs and what should be done about them? Triggers are external clues that bring back thoughts, feelings or memories that have to do with drug or alcohol abuse. The reward center of your brain has created pathways that send an automatic reward response when coming in contact with a trigger or cue. It sends a spurt of dopamine in the brain and you feel rewarded. You might be tempted to seek more of this reward feeling that is associated with drug or alcohol use. Because of this, each person can have different triggers that tempt them out of recovery and into relapse.

Some triggers include:

  • Resuming the social behavior you had while abusing drugs or alcohol, such as hanging out with old drinking buddies or visiting old drinking haunts.
  • Boredom, loneliness, anxiety or depression.
  • Unrealistic goals for recovery.
  • Stress or letting yourself get too tired and rundown.

It’s important to avoid triggers until the brain’s neurotransmitters are brought back into balance, and you have the clarity of mind to make the necessary social and behavioral changes required of a healthy recovery. Triggers can also be closely associated with feelings that one may struggle with: anger, jealousy, or sadness. It is important to recognize and address these feelings.

Some simple steps you can take to address common triggers:

  • Find new routes. For example, change your ride home from work and listen to your favorite song while doing so.
  • Have a compassionate and supporting family member, friend or mentor on speed dial that you can call at a moment’s notice.
  • Use healthy habits to fill the time usually reserved for your old habits. For example, if you spent the time after dinner drinking wine, plan on taking a walk instead. Healthy habits such as exercise, meditation, reading a book, cooking a nutritious meal, and talking to a friend are great ways to combat relapse. Decide on a few replacement habits and have them ready for when you encounter a trigger.
  • Work with a therapist or life coach to address habit changing behavior.

Planning is a crucial word when it comes to avoiding recovery saboteurs and risking relapse. Think before you go out with friends at night, take on extra accounts at work, or even go on vacation. Avoid your known triggers until you are healthy enough that they won’t pose a problem. For those unknown triggers you encounter, be prepared to pull out your best defenses.

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